Online Talks

Synopses and reviews of TED talks and similar things

Dorothy Roberts: The problem with race-based medicine

The image for this TED talk

Dorothy Roberts discusses some of the problems with race-based medicine. Before seeing the TED talk, I didn't realize that there were so many issues.

Kristen Marhaver: How we're growing baby corals to rebuild reefs

The TED talk image for this video

Coral reefs are important for stabilizing the ecosystem and providing biodiversity, for protecting humans against extreme weather, for medical research, and for aesthetic purposes.  Their value is estimated at over $375 billion per year.  They are dying at an alarming rate due to human activities.

In this talk, Kristen Marhaver explains exactly what coral are and how her lab has been researching ways to make it easier for coral to reproduce 

Genevieve von Petzinger: Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?

Genevieve von Petzinger's TED talk image

Genevieve von Petzinger is studying the evolution of writing by looking at cave paintings.  Before her, most researchers focused on animals in cave paintings even though most cave paintings included geometric figures.  She spent hundreds of hours crawling through caves to find these paintings, document them, and categorize them.  She found that there were only 32 different geometric symbols used across the cave paintings of Europe, indicating that they had come from a common origin and were being used intentionally rather than being used randomly.  

Harald Haas: A breakthrough new kind of wireless Internet

Harald Haas' TED talk image

Existing wifi technology, both the router and the receiving device, consumes energy.  Harald Haas' team has created a technology that uses light to transmit data using off the shelf LEDs and solar panels, which can transmit up to 50Mbps of data and can work even when partly obscured due to things like fog.  Because the receiver is a solar cell, it is able to harvest some of the energy used to transmit the data, making the technology more energy neutral.

Jennifer Doudna: We can now edit our DNA. But let's do it wisely

Jennifer Doudna's TED talk image

Jennifer Doudna was researching CRISPR, which is like an immune system for bacteria.  Bacteria can grab viruses, sample them, learn how to detect them, and then learn how to destroy them.

Since CRISPR cuts up the virus (using Cas9) and we can synthesize RNA, Doudna was able to use these components to edit genes.

Sandrine Thuret: You can grow new brain cells. Here's how

Sandrine Thuret TED talk picture

There's a myth that adults don't grow new brain cells, but Sandrine Thuret debunks it and talks about how neurogenesis, the process of making new brain cells, works.

The average adult makes 700 new neurons in their hippocampus every day. These new neurons are important for mood (reduced neurogenesis is linked to depression) as well as learning and memory.

Mac Stone: Stunning photos of the endangered Everglades

Mac Stone's TED Talk Photo

Mac Stone believes that people won't care about the environment unless they can experience it and can hear a story about it that makes them care.  He tells stories through breathtaking photos.  This If you want to see 20 minutes of photos of Florida's endangered Everglades along with interesting stories about conservation and ecology, this is a great talk.

Mia Birdsong: The story we tell about poverty isn't true

Mia Birdsong's TED talk

Mia Birdsong shares some heartfelt narratives of the ingenuity of poor people and argues that structural inequality and luck, rather than a lack of hard work, are the prime causes of continued poverty.

David Foster Wallace - This is Water


"This is Water" is a 2005 commencement speech by David Foster Wallace (video, transcript).  Wallace's argument is that a liberal arts education is valuable because it teaches you how to think, which helps you notice your default state of being so that you can act with understanding of it rather than acting like a fish who doesn't know what water is (thus, "this is water").  It was an interesting discussion, but I think that it ultimately misses the point.

Reggie Watts - A send-off in style

Reggie Watts is a comedian and musician, and he gave a Pop Tech talk making fun of Pop Tech talks.

His talk was hilarious. He captured the vocabulary, mannerisms, and style of TED (and similar) talks perfectly. "Getting outside of the box is more than just getting out of a box and walking away. As children know, sometimes boxes are very difficult to get out of. Why is it any different for us? Between glass ceilings, dirt floors, and boxes..."

If you ever watch TED or Pop Tech talks, I highly recommend Reggie Watts' talk.


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